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No Sudden End to Sopranos Debate
2007-06-14 15:20
by Jon Weisman

As a prime defender of the ending, I'm still not ready to shut the door on The Sopranos. Neither is San Francisco Chronicle writer Tim Goodman at his blog, The Bastard Machine - not quite yet, anyway:

Well it's been quite a few days of post-"Sopranos" speculation and chat. I did five radio interviews on Monday including 40 minutes on "Talk of the Nation" and that finale was, indeed, the talk of the nation. No doubt the finale will live on in pop culture history as a great debate. Did Tony live or die? I love that it has prompted so much discus-sion and creative (insane?) deconstruction. And now I'm on the verge of being very much over the whole thing. Time to move on. But before I do, a few final thoughts and a debunking of some "Sopranos" myths:

  • I still believe, as I wrote, that it was a brilliant ending. As the days go by, it only gets better. For those people who felt cheated and/or betrayed by the ending, well, it could be you were watching the wrong series the entire time. Remember the good times and move on.

  • I also still believe Tony's alive and that the camera simply stopped - our glimpse into the machinations of both Soprano families is over. I think the ending leaves room for precisely one other theory: That Tony was killed. It's certainly valid and if you choose to believe it, good for you. David Chase has allowed reasonable people to disagree. Now, onto debunking some popular theories …

  • Comments
    2007-06-14 16:15:20
    1.   underdog
    I agree with Goodman, Tony's alive and just moving on. Until he's dead. Which could have happened 5 minutes later. Who knows! It was a brilliant finale. But I was also lost a few times because I've only sporadically watched the past couple of seasons. I need to go back and watch them all now so I can feel like I know what I'm talking about.

    This can't be legal. But it sure is fun for the few days it'll stay up:
    (Check 'em all out

    2007-06-15 07:32:43
    2.   Penarol1916
    The only thing I disagree with is the assertion that the Sopranos ending was the talk of the nation. It was the talk of the chattering classes, less than 5% of the country watched the finale, the media seems to forget these types of things and seems to think that the rest of the country is as obsessed with their middlebrow entertainments as they are.
    2007-06-15 08:41:10
    3.   Benaiah
    2 - Well, everyone I know is talking about it. "Middlebrow entertainments" is a little harsh, the "Sopranos" is proof that television can have the artistic merit of high art. In fact, I think television is the best visual approximation of a novel. I would love a television adaptation of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" because I don't think a movie could do it justice in 2-3 hours. "The Best of Youth" was phenomenal, structured like a sprawling novel and its 6 hours originally debuted on Italian television.

    Sure, most of America didn't see "The Sopranos" but there is no universal experience anymore. Even "American Idol" is watched by less than a quarter of the country. Art has never been universal, and I don't think that is a requirement for it to be important or worthy of discussion.

    2007-06-15 08:59:36
    4.   Penarol1916
    3. Middlebrow is not an insult, but that is exactly what most things discussed as "quality" are, they are middle-brow, most of my tastes run middlebrow. My favorite book, "One Hundred Years of Solitude" is also middlebrow.
    I also don't think that the Sopranos is unworthy of discussion, in fact I enjoyed most of the discussion of the Sopranos finale, hear, at my office, and in other places.

    My problem is with all of these talking heads and writers saying that "America is talking about the Sopranos finale" when that is very far from the truth. It really just goes to show how disconnected these people are from most of America.

    2007-06-15 09:21:28
    5.   Benaiah
    4 - I don't really get the high brow/middle brow distinction. My favorite book is also "One Hundred Years of Solitude", but I believe that it is incredibly significant art. Does high brow mean you read Proust in the original French? I watch a lot of movies with subtitles, does that qualify? I think anyone who attempts to understand art through contemplation and discussion is highbrow, no matter what the art itself is. But it is kind of a pointless distinction, especially to label yourself. I guess it shows you aren't a snob.
    2007-06-15 10:01:45
    6.   Penarol1916
    5. I don't label myself, just the art. Highbrow is just really more avant guarde stuff that turns off some people put shows some kind of new insight, while middle-brow is stuff that is considered intelligent, but not really revolutionary. Subtitles don't matter, some David Lynch is what would be considered high brow, atonal symphonies when they first came out would be considered high brow.
    2007-06-15 10:24:45
    7.   Bob Timmermann
    Brow levels can change.

    Opera used to be lowbrow back in the day.

    Now it's highbrow.

    2007-06-15 10:32:17
    8.   Benaiah
    So Joyce and Nabokov are highbrow.

    Marquez and Twain are middlebrow? What about Kundera?

    Dave Eggers?

    High brow seems almost pejorative in this definition. Like high brow means incomprehensible to all but the snobbiest viewers.

    2007-06-15 10:52:39
    9.   Penarol1916
    8. It doesn't necessarily have to be incomprehensible, I really distinguish it by saying that middlebrow artists care what the audience thinks, they want audience to see the work as intelligent or enriching. High brow art has no care for the audience at all, it ONLY about pushing the art to things that have never been done before. Joyce is probably the very definition of high brow, but that is because the whole idea of high, middle and low brow is a very modernist construct, so most early modernist movers would be considered high brow. I would say that "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" would be considered high brow, but most everything else of his I've read to be middlebrow. Eggers is definately middlebrow.

    I would also probably say that high brow is incomprehensible to even the snobbiest of audiences much of the time, at least during the time it is created.

    2007-06-15 11:34:22
    10.   Benaiah
    9 - Can't get more highbrow than "Finnegan's Wake". I only know one person who has read it.
    2007-06-15 11:41:42
    11.   Penarol1916
    11. I think you can, and we're about to see the pinnacle of highbrow art with the premiere of "Kittens vs. Cougars" on NBC.
    2007-06-15 11:51:44
    12.   Benaiah
    There is a "Calvin and Hobbes" that discusses the high brow/low brow dichotomy. It focuses on how a painting of a comic strip is ironic high art, but a comic strip of a painting is fleeting and low art.

    What about the readings of movies like "Jackass" as Warholian stunts? Can low brow be read as high brow?

    2007-06-15 12:06:59
    13.   Penarol1916
    12. I remember that strip very well. As for jackass, I've never actually watched it, or the movies, I was kind of unplugged from pop culture when it was really popular (I got rid of my TV because I moved to a new town and I needed to force myself to get out and meet people and I was just traveling a lot).
    2007-06-15 13:07:38
    14.   blue22
    Perhaps the ending isn't so ambiguous after all...

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